jrmasteringsmall

In this article, I will discuss the best music recording software and best music production software for your DAW home recording studio in 2018.

 

Since 1990, I've worked with every one of these recording software programs to some extent and have solid advice to offer on each one.  

I limited this review to only 5 programs because this article is titled "the best" music recording software.  A program like Reaper can record and produce music very well, but you wouldn't open up a recording studio with a $60 program as your main DAW software!

FYI - ALL of these programs are pretty difficult (time consuming) to learn.  It might take you two hours just to figure out how to play ONE NOTE on a music keyboard!

But with practice and a few free YouTube instructional videos, you could become very proficient in a few months.  Just be patient and learn step-by-step.  Don't get discouraged.  Realize that even the best sound engineers and producers in the world had to start somewhere and learn from scratch.

 

1. PRO TOOLS

Pro Tools HD Music Recording Software

See Current Price - Avid Pro Tools HD Native

PROS:  
The top recording software and still industry standard at the highest level.  This means if you needed to change studios, you could easily hand the whole project session over to them and they would be able to work with it.

The hardware accelerated version is the most stable of all the software choices for Pro Tools and on this page.  You can throw a lot of tracks and plugins at this software and the powerful hardware makes sure it won't blow up as easily as other programs.  But this stability and power comes at a price... $$$  

FYI - DAW software does occasionally freeze, blue screen, etc. on export or when pushed to the track and plugin limit.  This is probably why Pro Tools is still the industry standard.  You can't keep going blue screen when the client is paying $1,000 an hour!

CONS: 
Very expensive for the entire hookup.  Even some of the exact same plugins cost more, just because they're "Pro Tools" compatible.

CONCLUSION:
Since this is mainly a "recording" software article, Pro Tools has to be #1.  The fact that so many studios use it as their main DAW software is too great a factor to ignore.  Not to mention the rock solid stability.  You get what you pay for...

 

2. CUBASE NUENDO OR CUBASE

Cubase Music Recording Software

See Current Price - Cubase 8.5

PROS: 
Very user-friendly with tons of options that help you create a great workflow.  

Record, mix, master, compose it does it all very well!

CONS: 
Regular Cubase is a little less stable than Cubase Nuedo with a few less feature, but a very good choice.

Nowhere near as stable as Pro Tools.

CONCLUSION: 
Cubase is my personal DAW software of choice.  It has more options and is just as smooth as Pro Tool on the recording, mixing, and mastering end. But destroys them when it comes to music production.  It's by far the best "all-around" DAW software.

 

3. LOGIC

Logic Music Recording Software

See Current Price - Logic Pro

PROS: 
It's the #1 choice of Apple computer users, and it's also compatible with Garageband.

A lot of big music producers use it.  Lots of features to quickly create songs.

Great Midi control of external instruments.

CONS: 
I've never seen Logic on a PC and believe it's Apple computer only.

When mixing, the workflow is good, but not as good as Cubase.

CONCLUSION: 
Logic is an amazing software.  It's the Mac's version of Cubase!

 

4. ABLETON LIVE

Abelton Live Music Recording Software

See Current Price - Abelton Live 9

PROS: 
The very best software for looping, stretching and sequencing music.  Allows you to quickly create music on the fly.

It's a great program for someone who doesn't need all the technical options, and just wants to pump out song compositions fast.

CONS: 
When it comes to mixing, it doesn't have the "must have" options that some of the other programs do.  Options that make the mixing engineer's life easier.

I've heard many complain about lesser sound quality coming from the Ableton engine, though I have not confirmed this.

CONCLUSION: 
Ableton Live is a great music production software.  There are better choices out there for recording, mixing, and mastering.

 

5. SONAR

Sonar Music Recording Software

See Current Price - Sonar Professional

PROS: 
It's stable.  It's cheap.  The pro version is only $199.

CONS: 
The mixing board layout is crap, as you can see above.  It's the opposite of easy workflow!

Everyone has moved on to bigger and better DAW software.

CONCLUSION: 
Sonar is the upgraded "renamed" version of Cakewalk from back in the 90's!  I never really liked Calkwalk, and when other programs came out that were better, like Cubase, I stopped using Sonar.

The Music Production Secrets Series
by John Rogers

  

My Best Mixing & Mastering Articles

How To Master A Song In Only 5 Minutes!

Would you like to know how to master a song or how to master your own music?  So many people think just making the volumes the same level for every song is "mastering" their CD.  Well, mastering is a lot more than just that!  Read more....

 

Read more ...
Best Room Size For Audio Mastering DAW Home Recording Studio

6 best room size for audio mastering

So, what is the best room size for audio mastering in your DAW home recording studio?  Technically, you can properly mix or master in any room size.  But, I believe a smaller room is better than a very large one for someone who's just starting out. And when I say smaller I mean closer to 12'x15' than to 20'x30'.  I've mixed and mastered songs for a number of years in a 20'x30' room.  It took me a few days to get used to it, but after that I could do it.

 

Read more ...
Creating Headroom In A Mix

17 how create headroom in mix

 

To create a mix for mastering with proper headroom is pretty simple. 

 

Read more ...
How Much Headroom Before Mastering Should I Leave?

mastering headroom

How much headroom before mastering should you leave in your mix?  Here's the correct amount of headroom you should leave, using detailed graphic examples.  Read more....

Read more ...
Monitor Speaker Placement For Your Home Recording Studio And DAW Setup

4 speaker placemnt daw home recording studio

Here's the monitor speaker setup I use for my DAW, and the setup I recommend for your home recording studio.

 

Read more ...
How Much Should I Charge For Mastering?

I've mastered over 40,000 songs since 1999.  I've charged $10 a song, $20, $30, $50 even $100!  Some prices worked better than others.  Here are a few facts to consider when deciding on what prices to charge.

Read more ...
Why Does A Mix Need Headroom And Dynamic Range?

16 why do songs need mastering

Why does a mix need headroom and dynamic range?  In one sentence, it gives the mastering engineer more room to work with.
 

Read more ...
What's The Vibrato And Tremolo Definition In Music | Differences Between Tremolo And Vibrato

The vibrato and tremolo effects both have their differences.  But the vibrato and tremolo effects also sound very similar; both slightly wave and pulsate the pitch of an audio track. You have to hear it for yourself to understand the sound.

 

Read more ...
Fixing A Bad Mix With Mastering

A lot of mastering engineers are afraid to make drastic changes to a mix they are working on.  That, or they're stuck in the familiarity of always making only small changes. 

In this video I show how you can turn a weak mix (definitely wouldn't call it bad) into a great sounding master, simply by pushing your levels a little more than you might be used to.

 

Read more ...
Top 17 Common Music Mixing Mistakes And How To Fix Them!
audio music mixing mistakes
 
These are the Top 17 most common music mixing mistakes I see daily.  Correcting them could will improve your audio mastering results and make your mixes sound more professional.  Read more....
 
 
Read more ...
Learning And Calibrating Your Speakers For Your DAW In Audio Mastering

3 calibrate speakers audio mastering daw

Learning and calibrating your speakers for your DAW in audio mastering is a very important step in the audio mastering process.  When I first start out with NEW speakers (though I never change them now), I listen to my favorite hit songs in every genre and style.  Songs that I know from my years of experience have X amount of bass, X amount of brightness, etc.  I know how these songs are "supposed" to sound.

 

Read more ...
What Does Mastering Do To A Song?

10 what is audio mastering

What does mastering do to a song?  Your main goal in audio mastering is to replicate the sonic qualities of a well professionally mastered commercial song, in the same genre and style as the song mix you are working on.

 

Read more ...
How To Prepare Your Songs For Mixing
prepare songs for mixing

In this article, I'll show you how to prepare your songs for mixing.

 

Read more ...
Mastering Hardware Equipment You Need For Your DAW Home Recording Studio

7 mastering hardware equipment daw recording studio

Here's the basic hardware you need to master music:

 

Read more ...
What Is Audio Mastering?

9 what is audio mastering

What is audio mastering?  I've seen a lot of different answers on the Internet to this simple question.  Some were pretty technical and confusing.

 

Read more ...
Audio Mastering Software Processors

Here are the series of audio mastering software processors I've used on the over 30,000 songs I've mastered since 1999.  In this video, I use mostly izotope ozone plugins because it's easier to explain using them.  In real-life, I do mix in a few hardware pieces, and a waves plugin.

 

Read more ...
What Is Chorus Effect In Music | How To Use Chorus

This article discusses what is the chorus effect in music and how to use it?  The chorus effect makes a single audio track sound like a group. It achieves this by taking a single instrument or vocal track, multiplying it, and then slightly detunes each newly created track. The result is a fuller lush sounding audio track.

 

Read more ...
Should Your Mix Sound Close To A Mastered Song?

13 mix sound like master

Note - This section is basically a tip for those of you working with clients or if you plan on submitting your mixes to a mastering engineer.

 

Read more ...
How To Mix And Master Songs

If you're into "do it yourself projects" my mastering book will show you EXACTLY how I mastered every style of music on this website.  Get it here Audio Mastering Secrets!

Mid Side EQ In Mastering

This is a quick video on how a mid-side processor works, and how to check the stereo field of your mix using a mid-side processor equalizer.

 

Read more ...
Can Anyone Become A Great Sound Engineer?

11 become great sound engineer

I would say YES, most people can become a great mastering engineer. I say this because most of the mixes I receive from clients are pretty good and I know the audio engineer (the band member with a computer) has only minimal training.  He could easily be great if he put a little more study and practice time into it.  And if he had this book to teach him what took me over 17 years to learn!  Ha!

 

Read more ...
How To Prepare Your Songs For Mastering
preparing mixes for mastering

In this article, we'll show you how to prepare your mixes for mastering.

 

Read more ...
My First Music Video!

Here's the first music video I directed, Mahalin Muli by JAI, released on July 10th, 2018.  I also wrote more than half of the script. 

Read more ...
Best Free Redbook CD Burning Software
Yes, burning your own redbook master CDs is very easy!  Here's how to make your own redbook CD masters for free! 
 
Read more ...
Stereo Widening Techniques | How To Use Stereo Widening In Mastering Music

Here are a few great stereo widening techniques and how to use them in music.  When you listen to music on a car radio, you want that wide stereo sound that extends from the left door to the right. Not just two feet wide right above the stereo!

 

Read more ...
Go to top